The couple suspected of killing 14 people at a holiday party in California amassed thousands of rounds of ammunition and a dozen pipe bombs, authorities said, as they sought clues to the pair’s motives and whether they had links to Islamist militants.
Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, his wife and mother of his six-month-old daughter, were killed in a shootout with police five hours after Wednesday’s massacre at the Inland Regional Center social services agency in the city of San Bernardino, Reuters reported.
Twenty-one people were wounded in the shooting, which ranks as the deadliest instance of US gun violence in three years.
San Bernardino police chief Jarrod Burguan said at a Thursday news conference that the search of a townhouse leased by Farook and Malik in the nearby community of Redlands turned up flash drives, computers and cellphones.
Officials in Washington familiar with the investigation said so far there was no hard evidence of a direct connection between the shooters and any militant group abroad, but the electronics would be checked to see if the couple had been browsing on jihadist websites or social media.
One US government source told Reuters that the FBI was examining information indicating that Farook had been in contact with individuals who were themselves under FBI investigation at some point, some from cases already closed.
The source also said it was possible that one or more of the Farook contacts under scrutiny were located overseas.
But no information has yet emerged suggesting any ties or contacts between Farook and the Islamic State or other specific militant groups, the source said.
Officials from US President Barack Obama to police chief Burguan said the attack may have been motivated by extremist ideology but that questions of motive remained unanswered.
“It is possible that this was terrorist-related. But we don’t know,” Obama told reporters. “It is also possible that this was workplace-related.”
Farook, an American citizen, was born in Illinois, the son of Pakistani immigrants, according to Hussam Ayloush, who heads the Los Angeles area chapter of the Muslim advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Malik was born in Pakistan and lived in Saudi Arabia until they married, Ayloush said.
David Bowdich, FBI assistant director in Los Angeles, said Malik was admitted to the US on a K-1 “fiancee visa” and was traveling on a Pakistani passport.
The couple entered the US in July 2014 after a trip that included Pakistan, Bowdich said.
Farook also visited Saudi Arabia for nine days in the summer of 2014, the kingdom’s embassy in Washington said.
The director of the Islamic Center of Riverside, a mosque Farook attended regularly for two years until 2014, described him as a devout Muslim who made the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia a few years ago and celebrated his wedding reception at the mosque.
“His degree of faith is very high,” the director, Mustafa Kuko, told Reuters. “He was a very quiet person, peaceful, never had an argument with anyone or a dispute.”
Kuko said Farook attended morning and evening prayers from 2012 to 2014, when he stopped coming abruptly.
Farook, who according to Burguan had no criminal record, worked as an inspector for San Bernardino County Department of Environmental Health, the agency throwing the holiday party that came under attack.
Police cited witness accounts that Farook had been attending the celebration but stormed off in anger, then returned with Malik armed with assault gear and opened fire. Burguan said they sprayed the room with 65 to 70 rounds.
Burguan said the couple had two assault-style rifles, two semi-automatic handguns and 1,600 rounds of ammunition in their rented sport utility vehicle, when they were killed.
At the townhouse, police found another 4,500 rounds, 12 pipe bombs and bomb-making equipment.
The guns were legally purchased in the US, according to a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Nizaam Ali, a 23-year-old college student who said he knew Farook from mosque, said Farook prayed two to three times a week during his lunch break at the Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah of America mosque in San Bernardino. Ali said he had not seen any signs of radicalization or extremism.
Farook told Ali that he married his wife, whom he met online, in July 2014. Ali added that Farook’s wife wore the niqab, a scarf that covers most of the face, which was something Farook had mentioned he liked about her.
The San Bernardino rampage was the deadliest U.S. shooting incident since the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in which 27 people, including the gunman, were killed.
There have been more than 350 shootings this year in which four or more people were wounded or killed in the US, according to shootingtracker.com, a website that keeps a running tally of US gun violence.
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